Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"St. Nicholas" - November 2007

The prospect of this tale of a drunken theatre critic who finds himself falling under the spell of Vampires in contemporary London had possibilities, and the Citizens offer of £6 tickets on a Tuesday night proved sufficiently tempting.

In the small Circle Studio with no set, props or soundtrack with only lighting to set the mood, Peter Dineen holds court, providing an insight into his untitled character's life as a miserable theatre critic who neither receives nor gives much joy from his theatregoing or reviewing, and little more from his family life. Drinking appears to provide his only pleasure.

The story moves forward as after a reviewing 'incident' he leaves Dublin behind for London. Due to a series of events he finds himself in the company of a group of Vampires and the second act looks at his time with them. The play's actually a bit of a mess really with rather enigmatic metaphors, fairytales and parables which if I'm honest left me puzzled and frustrated more often than not (including the apparently absent relevance of the play's title).

Fortunately Dineen has the ability to keep the audience sufficiently engaged. Just. The audience want to pay attention to him and in the second act in particular he comes very much to life but Conor Macpherson's dialogue doesn't do him a great deal of favours - relying on rather tiresome swearing for a cheap laugh or two. There were moments when he appeared to struggle a little with the in-the-round staging, playing too much to one side and then remembering to do a quick twirl now and again, but he seemed to be more aware of this as the show progressed.

I'm unconvinced that the staging/direction really worked with the piece, and it could have been better delivered from a comfortable leather armchair with a glass of brandy in hand rather than the constant pacing of the performance space. Indeed some of the most effective moments of the evening were those when Dineen took a seat amongst the audience. It's also difficult not to make comparisons with Mike Maran's Don Camillo or Tam Dean Burns in Venus as a Boy both of which created much more energy. Of course those productions benefited greatly from both live music and use of props, and I feel St Nicholas would have too.

It's a little strange re-reading this post as I appear to have been influenced by the lead character's negative disposition, as despite all the issues I've highlighted this was an enjoyable enough evening - certainly worth my £6 although I think I might have reservations had I paid the £12 ticket price for another night.

St Nicholas runs at the Citizens until 17th November.